Page 1

June 2019

The Literary Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

KOBE Inspires Kids with New Book Series

Vanessa Bayer

Offers Heartfelt Advice in Debut Children’s Book

Mickey Rapkin

Pens a Bedtime Adventure for Reluctant Sleepers

One to Watch:

Symonne Harrison

Q&A WITH

Kim Dwinell and Vera Brosgol

Timothy Young

Lets His Characters Tell the Story in New Picture Book

Jacqueline Prata

Turns a School Essay into an Award-Winning Book

Zack Bush

Celebrates the Joys of Fatherhood in Bestselling Picture Book

One to READ:

Pen Avey Teaching Toolbox

Keep Summer Reading Fresh and Fun

James Patterson

Sharing Pride

Judy Newman

Reader … I Mean, Car Mechanic-in-Chief


PROMOTE YOUR BOOK IN OUR NEXT ISSUE! Would you like to promote your book, product, or business? Contact Cristy Bertini at Cristy@StoryMonsters.com or call 413-687-0733 to reserve your space! Discounts available.

MEET THE STAFF PUBLISHER

Linda F. Radke Linda@StoryMonsters.com

Editor-in-Chief

Cristy Bertini Cristy@StoryMonsters.com

WRITERS

Bring Story Monsters Ink into Your Classroom! Visit our website at StoryMonsters.com to download free classroom question sheets to aid in learning comprehension and encourage your students to discuss what they’ve read in each issue!

Melissa Fales, Nick Spake, Olivia Amiri, Julianne Black, Larissa Juliano

Special ContributorS Judy Newman James Patterson

DESIGN

StoryMonsters.com Subscribe online or through digital subscription services for schools and libraries.

Jeff Yesh

Science & Nature Editor Conrad J. Storad

PROOFREADER Deb Greenberg

Web Management Patti Crane

Advertising

Linda F. Radke Info@StoryMonsters.com Cristy Bertini Cristy@StoryMonsters.com

Book Reviewers Darleen Wohlfeil, Diana Perry, Christine Irvin, Sherry Hoffman, Diana Fisher, Dawn Menge, Denise Bloomfield

“Like” us on Facebook! Facebook.com/StoryMonsters Follow us on Twitter! @StoryMonsters Follow us on Instagram! instagram.com/storymonsters

Cover photo by Jeff Lewis Photography Story Monsters Ink magazine and www.StoryMonsters.com are trademarks of Story Monsters, LLC. Copyright ©2019 Story Monsters LLC, ISSN 2374-4413, All rights reserved. Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the individual writers and are not necessarily those of Story Monsters Ink or its advertisers. Story Monsters Ink is published by Story Monsters LLC Postal mail may be sent to Story Monsters Ink 4696 W. Tyson St., Chandler, AZ 85226 Phone: 480-940-8182

2

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Honor Roll Gold Award Recipient, Mom’s Choice Awards. 2018 Irwin Award winner for “Best Magazine Writer of the Year.” 2016 Irwin Award winner for “Best Publisher of a Literary Magazine” and “Best Editorial Director.”


JUNE 2019

in this issue ... Features 24 Timothy Young Lets His Characters Tell the Story in New Picture Book

30 Jacqueline Prata Turns a School Essay into an Award-Winning Book

34 Zack Bush 04 KOBE Inspires Kids with New Book Series

10 Vanessa Bayer Offers Heartfelt Advice in Debut Children’s Book

16 Mickey Rapkin Pens a Bedtime Adventure for Reluctant Sleepers

20 One to Watch: Symonne Harrison

Celebrates the Joys of Fatherhood in Bestselling Picture Book

38 One to Read: Pen Avey 60 Q&A with kim dwinell and vera brosgol

Columns 14 JAMES PATTERSON Sharing Pride

28 Judy Newman

Reader … I Mean, Car Mechanic-in-Chief

42 TEACHING TOOLBOX Keep Summer Reading Fresh and Fun

52 Monsters at the Movies Avengers: Endgame

63 Liv on Life

What Would Be Your Superpower?

Resources 46 Summer Reading LIST 54 Book Reviews

Want to read even more? Check out our Book Briefs page at storymonsters.com to keep up with the latest news, interviews, and happenings at Story Monsters!

Tell us what you think of this issue! Email your comments to cristy@storymonsters.com.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

3


COVER FEATURE

4

KOBE

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com


Kobe Bryant

COVER FEATURE

KOBE

Inspires Kids with New Book Series by Melissa Fales photos by Jeff Lewis Photography

In the three years since NBA great Kobe Bryant retired from the game, he’s been displaying a whole new set of skills off the court. Most recently, he’s created a young adult/middle grade book series, written by Wesley King and published by Bryant’s own Granity Studios. It’s about a marginal, inner-city basketball team and their utterly unconventional coach who teaches them more than just how to play.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

5


COVER FEATURE

Kobe Bryant

goal of inspiring and entertaining the next generation.” For Bryant, publishing The Wizenard Series is one more way to make a positive impact in children’s lives. “Ultimately, I’d like kids to take away the importance of self-acceptance, and then how the acceptance of others can follow,” he says. “A lot of self-acceptance comes from building the courage to face your fears. I’ve found that once you identify and accept what’s fearful to you, that fear starts to melt away.” The Wizenard Series: Training Camp brings Bryant together with author Wesley King for the first time. “It was an amazing collaboration,” says Bryant. “He was able to take my outline of the characters and the plot as I envisioned it and bring it to life on the page.” Readers will meet the West Bottom Badgers: an aptly-named inner-city team stuck in last place in their league until a new coach shows up and challenges everything they think they know about the game of basketball. The new coach, Training Camp, the first book in The Wizenard Series, shot to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list immediately upon its release in March. “Growing up, I didn’t read many stories that challenged my imagination, creative thinking, or problem-solving when it came to sports,” Bryant says. “I want to inspire and entertain young athletes with stories they feel represented by and can get excited about reading, while bringing imagination and joy back into youth sports.” Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, won an Academy Award in 2018 for Dear Basketball, an animated short film he wrote and narrated. Later that year, his book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, hit number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. Bryant is also an ambassador for the After-School All-Stars, a non-profit organization that offers after-school programs in 13 cities. “Over the years, I’ve gravitated towards working with organizations aimed at helping kids,” he says. “I love spending time with others who share the same, larger 6

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

“We’re building a stable of stories that we hope will impact young athletes, no matter their gender or sport, for years to come.” Rolabi Wizenard, uses his own special powers and supernatural gifts to teach each team member how to live up to his highest potential, both on and off the court. According to Bryant, the inspiration for Rolabi Wizenard came straight out of one of his favorite films:


Kobe Bryant

Julie Andrew’s portrayal of Mary Poppins. “She comes on to the scene and you have no idea where she came from,” Bryant says. “She’s stern, but also provides guidance and won’t give you specific answers on things. So, Mary Poppins was the start of the character and then I drew upon the transformative teaching of my basketball muses in order to place the character in a basketball setting. There are a lot of my coaches, including Phil Jackson and Tex Winter, as well as the great John Wooden, represented in Rolabi.” Not many books can claim sports/fantasy as a genre. “It is unique and I hope that’s what makes it stick,” says Bryant. “Fantasy and magic draw people in, especially kids. Sports/fantasy is a blend of two of my passions: sports and fantasy storytelling. I’m a voracious reader and huge Harry Potter fan. So, it was a natural fit for me from that perspective. And, I think kids respond to lessons they learn while being entertained. It connects back to my desire to want to bring joy back to youth sports, while teaching important life lessons.” In fact, says Bryant, drawing a connection between sports and fantasy isn’t such a stretch. “In sports, the magic is inherently there—good and bad,” he says. “If I’m feeling great, I feel like I can’t miss! That basket looks massive! But then conversely, if I’m feeling bad, the basket looks like it’s the size of a keyhole. I can’t make anything. That’s emotional magic. So I wanted to take emotion and use that as magic in our world to teach these very complicated methods to our children in an entertaining way.” Training Camp focuses on five Badgers players. “There’s a piece of me and my experiences within each one of them,” Bryant says. In particular, Rain’s personality most closely lines up with Bryant’s. “Rain’s weaknesses on the court are the same as mine,” he says. “There’s a vulnerability within him, an unwillingness to trust somebody else before he trusts himself. That’s something that I dealt with and struggled with. For Rain, the backstory of why he has that is different than my own, but the end issues and challenges are the same.” Bryant has infused aspects of his own life into the series’ location, too. “The physical setting of the book—The Bottom—is inspired by an area in West Philadelphia where I played a lot of basketball,” Bryant says. “I didn’t want to create a story where I’m just pulling stuff out of thin air. I wanted to base it off of

COVER FEATURE

experiences and things that I’ve seen and places that I’ve played.” In each of the books in The Wizenard Series, the story is presented in separate sections that highlight one player’s individual perspective on the same situation. “To me, it was the most authentic way of crafting a book about a team,” says Bryant. “You can’t really grow as a team unless you understand or see the growth of the teammates you have around you. In the first book, what you see is a lot of inner perspective, a lot of selfawareness, and self-acceptance. Now we’ll start seeing the growth of them having the courage to voice what that inner journey was for them to others. That’s the progression: First you have inner acceptance, and then you can share your journey with others. And now you can support and rally around each other. It’s important to see those different perspectives.” The characters in Training Camp are each grappling with their own internal conflicts as well as a challenging external situation. “With this book, we deal with psychological issues such as anxiety and depression,” Bryant says. “We also address socioeconomic issues as most of the players are from an extremely low-income area called The Bottom. Only four of the players on the team can afford a basketball. One player works two jobs; some have absent parents. For most, basketball is seen as their only way out. Every athlete holds unique fears and struggles to properly communicate with teammates, which subsequently hampers them on the court and in life.”

Author Wesley King

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

7


COVER FEATURE

Kobe Bryant

In the end, it’s Coach Rolabi Wizenard who brings the West Bottom Badgers together as a team. “They start to bond together, navigating Rolabi’s unorthodox ways,” says Bryant. “His challenges break them down at first, but eventually they grow together. They are able to do that as these challenges teach them confidence and compassion. They’re able to grow in a way that makes them better teammates and people. Through basketball, the teammates find a deeper connection to each other and overcome their differences as a result.” Book Two of The Wizenard Series is due out in 2020. “This is just the beginning,” says Bryant. “We have more coming from our studio that more and more readers will hopefully identify with. This year alone, we have two novels coming out featuring female protagonists and different sports: Legacy and the Queen will be published in September and Epoca: Island of the Gods will be published in November. We’re building a stable of stories that we hope will impact young athletes, no matter their gender or sport, for years to come.” For more information on Kobe Bryant, The Wizenard Series: Training Camp, and other books by Granity Studios, visit granitystudios.com.

8

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com


StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

9


Vanessa Bayer Offers Heartfelt Advice in Debut Children’s Book by Melissa Fales

Comedienne Vanessa Bayer knows how to make people laugh. The Emmy-nominated actress was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2010 to 2017 and has appeared in films such as Trainwreck and Office Christmas Party. Now, Bayer is revealing her lesserseen, more serious side with her new children’s picture book, How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? The book, set to be released June 4 by Feiwel & Friends, is about how to support a friend who is ill. “It’s a topic that’s very close to my heart because of my own experience,” 10

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Bayer says. “When I was 15, I was diagnosed with leukemia. I know it doesn’t sound very funny, but having leukemia as a teen gave me an ability to empathize with people in a different way. That’s why I wanted to write this book.” Following her diagnosis during her freshman year of high school, Bayer endured 10 months of intense chemotherapy. “I lost my hair,” she says. “I spent most of that time feeling very, very sick.” Even after completing that nearly year-long chemo regimen,


Vanessa Bayer

FEATURE

Bayer still required two years of “maintenance” chemotherapy, which often left her feeling weak and lethargic. “There were times when I wasn’t well enough to do a whole lot,” she says. “It made the things I did feel well enough to do that much more special to me. I was thrilled when I felt well enough to go to school. I always loved school and seeing my friends there.” Popular, and somehow always positive despite her health challenges, Bayer was voted prom queen her junior year. Bayer says the support she received from her circle of friends helped carry her through the darkest days of her illness. “It was obviously a very difficult time for me, but everything that happened affected my life going forward for the better in so many ways,” she says. “Everyone tends to be so obsessed with themselves when they’re a teenager, but my friends just rallied around me. It really meant a lot. Most of them are still my close friends to this day.” In Bayer’s case, the adage that laughter is the best medicine rang true. “Laughing with my friends is what helped me the most getting through the hard times,” she says. “I’m sure that’s the reason I ended up going into comedy.” How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? is Bayer’s debut book and she says she has enjoyed the entire process of writing it. “It’s been amazing,” she says. “It’s been really rewarding to see it all come together, especially since it had been in my head for such a long time.”

Bayer says she worked out a draft mentally and regularly made notes about the storyline on her phone for a few months before she really sat down and wrote the words. “It naturally came together in my mind,” she says. “I had been thinking about it so much, it was almost complete when I first put it on paper.” The book’s illustrations are by Rosie Butcher. “I’m such a big fan of hers,” says Bayer. “I can’t even believe how beautiful the illustrations are. It was so nice to have someone take my words and be able to illustrate them in such a thoughtful way.” Butcher’s depictions of the friendly bears are darling and sometimes poignant, such as when the sick bear is portrayed wearing a hat similar to those that cancer patients wear to stay warm when their hair falls out from chemotherapy. One of Bayer’s messages in How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? is that even if a friend is sick, they are still the same person that you’ve known and loved. “When someone we love becomes ill, it can be so scary and such a surprise and it can make us wonder if they’re somehow different now,” Bayer says. “It’s not logical, but it’s a natural reaction to wonder if they’re still going to be that same person they were before. I think that my constant joking around when I was sick reminded everyone that I was still the same person. My joking about my illness kept things light.” Bayer said another reason she wanted to write the book is because she’s found that people are often unsure of how to act around a friend who is sick or StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

11


FEATURE

Vanessa Bayer

going through something traumatic. When people are unsure of what to say or do, they’re inclined not to say or do anything at all for fear of it being the wrong thing. Bayer says that’s a mistake. “I want everyone who finds themselves in that situation to know that the person is still their friend,” she says. “It’s the same person. Reach out to them. Be there for them. Let them tell you that they need space instead of the other way around. Don’t just ignore them. If they need to be alone, they’ll tell you. Let them tell you. Just be there for them.”

“When I was 15, I was diagnosed with leukemia. I know it doesn’t sound very funny, but having leukemia as a teen gave me an ability to empathize with people in a different way. That’s why I wanted to write this book.”

12

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

While How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? is a children’s book, Bayer says her wish is that it will resonate with many adults who find themselves in a similar position. “I hope that this book is helpful to the kids and adults who read it,” she says. “It feels wonderful for me to have this opportunity to spread this message because I feel so strongly about it.” For more about How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? and Vanessa Bayer, visit us.macmillan.com/author/ vanessabayer.


Want to start your summer with a BLOCKBUSTER Adventure?

Welcome to the WORLD OF BRITFIELD!

5 Star Reviews from Chanticleer/Kids’ BookBuzz!

Story Monsters Approved! Adventure, History, Geography and Creative Thinking!

Author C. R. Stewart is currently on a national tour visiting schools across the nation. Would you like us to visit your school? Would you like a virtual session on creativity with the author for your school or group? Contact us for more information at info@britfield.com • “As a fourth grade teacher I was so impressed with your presentation. Thank you for opening our eyes to an experience of creativity and love for reading! I simply can’t wait to start the book tonight!!!” – K. MacLean • “We would love for you to come back to our school sometime. Please keep our school in mind if you do a book tour for your next book.” – K. McGee, Elementary Teacher and Librarian • “I am so very excited! I read the book over the weekend and can’t believe we have to wait over a year to read the next one!” – L. Yeamen

Visit Britfield.com for a FREE Sample Chapter. StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

13


PATTERSON

JAMES

Special Guest Columnists!

Sharing Pride by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

When we were teenagers, no one in our lives celebrated Pride. There might have been a few parades in far-off and magically accepting places, but the idea that an entire month of the year would be spent celebrating LGBTQIAP people in towns and cities all over the nation sounded like a fantasy. Our book Once & Future is a different kind of fantasy: a genderbent King Arthur retelling starring a group we refer to as the Knights of the Rainbow. A lot of people have asked how this cast came to be so diverse. The truth is that we simply included folks like the ones in our own lives. It felt natural to us, and we didn’t set any limits on who could sit at the new round table. It’s amazing how many times we’ve heard, “This is the first book I’ve read with LGBTQ characters in it,” or “This book has more LGBTQ inclusion than I’ve ever seen.” It can be easy to think that just because books are being published, or a celebration like Pride is becoming widespread, the work is done. But it’s really just beginning. If there is one thing we can urge people to do, it’s this: proudly hand books with LGBTQ main characters to all people. This might seem counterintuitive to allies who are working first and foremost to connect these books to LGBTQ youth. Yes, that’s important. No, don’t stop! But also, don’t stop there. Trying to figure out “who needs these books” is a false equation. Everyone does. The out and loud, the quietly questioning, the readers who think they couldn’t 14

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

photo by Nicholas Bromm

possibly connect with a book about a gay or bi or trans character—until they do. We never know what we will need in a story until we’re reading it. Specific identity and shared humanity are both things to be proud of. When you hand these books to all readers, you’re telling a story: There is something in here for you, no matter who you are.


SHARING PRIDE

JAMES PATTERSON

And if you are queer, your story matters to everyone. Recently we had the chance to meet so many librarians in parts of the country where it can still be difficult to shelve books with LGBTQIAP characters. They told us that they’re fighting to get Once & Future on the shelves, buying it with their own money, handing it around in secret. They know how important inclusion is. They know that stories can change everything. We also had a magical book event for Once & Future at our local independent bookstore. It was called Space Prom (!) and everyone dressed up in their best combination of futuristic and Renaissance Faire gear. We partnered with the local Outright branch, so there were a few dozen LGBTQIAP teens there. It was a deliriously happy sight. A few years ago, we had to

“We got to share pride that night. We were telling a story: There is a future for you. A future where you can see people like you on the shelves and in the bookstore, where you can reach for hope and happiness.”

And we had a love story as epic as anything in the pages of Once & Future. That night, at the end of reader’s theater, we got engaged. (A complete surprise to one of us at the time!) The teenagers in the audience had such a strong reaction to that moment. Some were crying. Others were excited beyond words. We got to share pride that night. We were telling a story: There is a future for you. A future where you can see people like you on the shelves and in the bookstore, where you can reach for hope and happiness. Neither of us could imagine seeing a proposal like this when we were teenagers. When the legend of King Arthur first spread, its ideals of equality must have felt impossible, too. But the future can always get better. The table can always be rounder. We fight intolerance together. When we proudly share LGBTQ stories, we are all knights of the rainbow.

move from a place that was unsafe for our family. It felt like we’d spent years fighting our way through nearly as many battles as our characters—with somewhat fewer dragons and spaceships. Now here we were, surrounded by community and celebrating a wild, funny, adventurous story that we got to write together and publish with the powerhouse of JIMMY Patterson Books supporting it at every turn.

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller with one unwavering goal: to turn kids into lifelong readers. jamespatterson.com

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

15


FEATURE

Mickey Rapkin

Mickey Rapkin Pens a Bedtime Adventure for Reluctant Sleepers by Melissa Fales What if, instead of a dark and scary place, kids thought of their bed as their own personal time-traveling device? That’s the premise of author Mickey Rapkin’s first children’s book, It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine (Imprint). Rapkin’s first book, Pitch Perfect, about an all-female collegiate a cappella group, was later adapted into a 2012 film that was such a hit it spawned two sequels. This time, instead of the Barden Bellas, Rapkin writes about a young boy whose mother calls him “The Boss of Bedtime” in an effort to assuage his fears. “I could never understand why kids are so afraid to go to bed,” Rapkin says. “I mean, the second you fall asleep, the next thing you know it’s time to wake up and then you have breakfast. It always felt like magic to me. But 16

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

since so many kids are afraid of something that should be fun, I thought, ‘Why not help them not be afraid? Why not use the power of imagination to help these kids learn to see bedtime as an adventure?’” It was only a matter of time until Rapkin wrote a book for kids. The son of two elementary school teachers, Rapkin went on to teach kindergarten for a time as well. He’s always been a huge proponent of reading to children and says it’s one of his favorite ways to interact with them. “It’s so much fun to read to a group of kids because they love to hear a story,” says Rapkin. “As adults, we’ve become old and jaded and sit staring at our phones. We have a very short attention span now.


Mickey Rapkin

FEATURE

We need to be entertained. But kids will sit there and listen to each word and look at each picture.” Rapkin is also an enthusiastic and accomplished writer. In addition to his books Pitch Perfect and Theater Geek, he also wrote a monthly column for Elle magazine, was a senior editor at GQ magazine for seven years, and has had his work published in Bon Appétit, Entertainment Weekly, National Geographic Traveler, and the New York Times. Despite the prominence he’s achieved with his past works, Rapkin says seeing It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine come to fruition has been a huge thrill. “I’ve never been so excited about something,” he says. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do.” It took some serious adjusting for Rapkin to switch gears and write for children after spending so many years writing for adults. “I basically learned on the fly,” he says. “The hardest part for me was learning to be so economical with words. Of course, my first draft was way, way too long. I think it was something like 1,200 words. My agent asked, ‘Have you ever actually read a book to a kid?’ I think the final book is 300 words.” It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine is illustrated by Teresa Martinez. “She did an amazing job,” says Rapkin. “When I first saw the picture where the boy is sitting on the dinosaur, I thought it was so beautiful I almost cried.” The storyline features a little boy who’s afraid to be alone in the dark at bedtime. “It’s his stuffed bunny, Floppy, who lets him in on this major, life-changing

secret,” says Rapkin. “The secret is that he’s not lying on a bed. It’s a time machine.” Floppy goes on to explain how the time one spends in bed can pass by so quickly. “Think about it,” Floppy says. “BAM! It’s morning. Where did the hours go?” The boy uses his bed/time machine to travel way back in time. “I figured if you could ask a kid where he would want to go back in time, a lot of them would say they would want to meet dinosaurs,” says Rapkin. And that’s exactly what the boy’s bed/time machine allows him to do. Traveling millions of years into the past, he meets a dinosaur, who, much like bedtime, is a little scary at first. The dinosaur even takes a little bite out of the boy’s sock, but he just wants to play. They have a grand time together, until the boy realizes it’s getting to be morning time and he needs to get back home.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

17


FEATURE

Mickey Rapkin

“It’s going to be a whole series of books about things that kids are afraid of, but shouldn’t be. I hope it will give kids a way to use their imaginations to think about things that frighten them in a different, friendlier way.” The next thing the boy knows, he wakes up and it’s morning. When his mother jokingly comments on the way his hair looks, he tells her that it’s messy because the dinosaur licked it. “At that, his mom laughs and tells

18

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

him he must have been dreaming about a dinosaur,” says Rapkin. “Although it all seems so real, the boy agrees that she’s probably right. It must’ve just been a dream. But then he looks down and sees the hole in his sock, just where the dinosaur bit it.” Rapkin has just wrapped up the text for a second picture book, It’s Not a School Bus, It’s a Pirate Ship, which is due out next summer. “It’s going to be a whole series of books about things that kids are afraid of, but shouldn’t be,” he says. “I hope it will give kids a way to use their imaginations to think about things that frighten them in a different, friendlier way.” For more information about Mickey Rapkin and It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine, visit mickeyrapkin.com or follow him on Twitter.


StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

19


FEATURE

SYMONNE HARRISON

One to Watch:

Symonne Harrison by Melissa Fales

Actress Symonne Harrison has a simple motto she lives by: “It’s not if … it’s when.” It’s a maxim that’s served her well for as long as she can remember. “It’s something I’ve been saying my whole life,” says the 12-year-old, who is also a noted dancer and popular social media influencer.

“When I’m going to an audition, I don’t say, ‘If I get this role,’ I say, ‘When I get this role.’ To me, it’s about achieving my goals. There’s something about that saying that just motivates me to do my best.” Harrison grew up in Ohio where she started dancing at the age of three. It was clear from the start that she had a natural artistic gift. “I love to perform in front of people,” Harrison says. “I love to entertain. I love to get up on that stage.” One of the highlights of her dance experience has been performing at a Cleveland Cavaliers game. “That was thrilling,” she says. Last summer, she was invited to perform in the Magic Kingdom Parade at Walt Disney World. “I even got to dance in front of the Magic Castle,” says Harrison. “It was so … well, magical.” Last year, after taking her career as far as she felt she could go in Ohio, Harrison moved to Los Angeles where she would have more opportunities in the entertainment industry. After just two weeks on the West Coast, Harrison began landing jobs. This summer, 20

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

look for her in Season 5, Episode 5 of Showtime’s The Affair. “That was an amazing experience,” says Harrison of her debut television appearance. “The cast and crew were so nice. Working on that set was like a dream come true.” Her dream role, however, would be the lead in a Disney movie. “Or maybe being in a show on Netflix,” she says. “I love watching Netflix.” Harrison also has a popular YouTube channel. “I started it last summer and it just kind of blew up,” she says. “Just today, I hit 15,000 subscribers, which is just crazy. It’s basically about me and my life. It’s all real. It’s like a behind-the-scenes look at a day in my life. Sometimes it gets a little crazy. What you see is what it is.” She says she’s cognizant of the fact that becoming an Internet personality is a privilege that comes with a certain amount of responsibility. With an active Instagram page with 35,000 followers to date, she’s aware that just by posting these videos of her going about her daily life, she’s become a role model for other girls. “It’s very special to me when my fans say they look


FEATURE

SYMONNE HARRISON

up to me,” Harrison says. “I always try to send them positive vibes and my message to them is to always be true to themselves. I definitely want to be a good influence on them because I know they’re watching what I do.” The fans who follow Harrison are always learning something new about her, such as her likes and dislikes. Once in a while, she reveals something that’s truly surprising. “People are usually surprised to learn that I love to game,” she says. “I love playing Roblox. And I love to live-stream with my friends. Fans are always saying, ‘I didn’t know you were a gamer.’ I think it’s fun to keep people guessing about me.” One thing people might not guess about Harrison is that she’s the Child Ambassador of the National Invention League and an inventor herself. “Fun fact: I

“Right now I’m living my dream. I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had and I’m just enjoying every step along this journey.” trademarked my product, Bear on the Chair, when I was 6 years old,” she says. Bear on the Chair is a tool that helps children monitor their conduct. “It’s a behavior buddy,” explains Harrison. “When you get Bear on the Chair, it comes with two patches that attach in the front with Velcro. One is a happy face and one is a sad face.” Parents or teachers or caregivers can use the different faces as a way to help remind the child about his or her behavior. “When the child is behaving, the bear wears the happy face,” she says. “When they’re not behaving, their parent can change the patch to the sad face. It’s a good visual tool for kids. They know right away that they did something wrong. And hopefully that will motivate them to do better.” 22

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Although it wasn’t designed as such, Bear on the Chair has been heralded as a useful tool for children with Autism. “If they can’t speak, Bear on the Chair can help them demonstrate their emotions,” says Harrison. “They can use the patches to convey how they are feeling.” Bear on the Chair recently appeared on an episode of the ABC show Black-ish. “It was really cool seeing it on TV because it’s my own invention,” says Harrison. Harrison says she’s found it easy to acclimate to life in Los Angeles and all of the opportunities it has to offer. She’s excited about her latest projects, including a soon-to-be released video she appears in which she choreographed, and says she feels very fortunate to be able to do what she loves every day. “Right now I’m living my dream,” she says. “I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had and I’m just enjoying every step along this journey.” For more about Symonne Harrison, visit symonneharrison.com. You can also follow her on Instagram at @Symonne Harrison and subscribe to her YouTube channel. For more about Bear on the Chair, visit bearonthechair.com.


2019 MIDWEST BOOK AWARDS Finalist - Children’s Fiction

WINNER - Children’s Non-Fiction

AWARD-WINNING EDUCATORS AGREE: Sammy’s Digestive System Deserves Attention!

What a great book! A great job of blending humor with a very clear and understandable description of the digestive system. Back in 2004 when it was first published, my ten-year-old son and daughter loved it! —Joan Baltezore, National Board Certified - Biology, Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, Milken National Educator Award The book has tremendous appeal to children, who find nothing more interesting than bodily functions, junk food, and carnivals. I read “Sammy” to my 8-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl. When we got to the parts about burping, vomiting, and flatulence, they giggled until they couldn’t breathe. —Jon Roland, Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching Sammy’s Day at the Fair is not only informative but fun to read as well. The information is accurate and presented in such a way as to be relevant to all readers. In addition, the phonetic glossary is extremely well done. Bravo! —Natalie Rasmussen, Milken National Educator Award

www.artwriteproductions.com

Softcover & Folletbound from: Follett School Solutions & Baker & Taylor Softcover also available at Amazon.com eBooks —Amazon & Apple Books

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

23


FEATURE

DANE BEST

Timothy Young Lets His Characters Tell the Story in New Picture Book by Melissa Fales

What do you call a children’s book featuring a coatimundi and a capybara as reluctant main characters whose sole topic of dialogue is how disappointed they are to be stuck in said book? Author/illustrator Timothy Young calls it Untitled (Schiffer) and it’s his latest. “I had a lot of fun with this one,” says Young. “It’s very meta. It doesn’t just break the fourth wall, it completely destroys it.” According to Young, Untitled was not his first choice for a title. “Originally, I was going to call it Another Stupid Book by Timothy Young,” says Young. “I thought that 24

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

was a hilarious title.” But when Young mentioned it to a school librarian, she thought it was a sequel to a book she hadn’t read. “I knew I had to rethink it,” Young says. Young toyed with a number of other title ideas, but nothing really fit. “As I was ruminating, I started thinking about the book as being untitled, the way a poem without a name is called Untitled and then that becomes the title,” he says. “I thought it would be funny to intentionally name the book Untitled. I still can’t believe I got away with it.”


TIMOTHY YOUNG

FEATURE

and layouts, toys, animation (including Peter Gabriel’s video for “Big Time”), and even designed and built Muppets for Jim Henson. “My first job right out of college was working for Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” he says. “I’ve had this incredibly lucky career because through that job, I met so many people in the industry. I had a great time, but I always thought I’d eventually write books.” It took several years for Young to decide that he was ready. “When I finally got the confidence to go for it, I met this guy who wanted me to illustrate a project of his,” says Young. “He already had two books published by Random House and he told me if I worked with him, he’d see that I had the opportunity to pitch my book idea to his editor, Heidi Kilgras.” Young lets his two characters tell the story as they grow increasingly impatient waiting for him to do it. “They get more and more frustrated with me and start giving suggestions about what they could be doing,” says Young. “They say they would rather be fighting monsters or exploring the oceans, and they go off on a rant about being stuck in my book.” Young says the idea for the book came to him while he was on the road, traveling to a school visit in Delaware. “It all came to me as I was driving,” he says. “I had an hour to kill so I found a coffee shop near the school and I typed up half the story there, just like that.” He says he’s come to appreciate, and maybe even embrace, the unique way he works his craft. “In reviewing all of my past books, I’ve come to realize that I tend to write monologues,” he says. “My books are not ‘once upon a time’ books. In my books, the character jumps right in, usually in the middle of the action, and tells their story. It works for me. I’ve come to think of my characters as being on stage. And in this case, in Untitled, the characters don’t have a script.”

When Young met with Kilgras, she was more impressed with the logo he had created for his company, Creatures and Characters, than with any of the illustrations he’d done. The logo, with its dark silhouettes and sharply contrasting bright eyes and teeth, captured her attention and she told Young she wanted him to create a book that looked like that. Hence, that long car ride Click to read along with Story Monsters!

This is the third time he’s basically written an entire book in his head over the course of a long drive. In fact, his very first book, I’m Looking for a Monster, came to him while he was driving from New York to Maryland. “The editor I had met with had requested a very specific look,” says Young. “I had most of it in my head by the time I got back home.” Young has had a diverse career in the arts before he started writing for kids. He worked on magazine covers StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

25


FEATURE

TIMOTHY YOUNG

“If there are any educators out there looking for authors to visit, invite me to your school. I’d really like to fill up the whole map. I love any opportunity to share a story.” Young spent thinking about how to fulfill her request. “I spent a few weeks drawing and when I sent the manuscript for I’m Looking for a Monster to her, she said, ‘Now that’s the book I wanted from you,’” he says. 26

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

After I’m Looking for a Monster was published, Young was pleasantly surprised to discover that author visits to schools would now be a part of his job. “I had no idea that schools start inviting you to read your books to kids once you have a book,” he says. “Now, school visits are one of my favorite things I get to do. I read, I draw pictures, I tell stories … I love it.” Young is such a fan of doing author visits to schools, he’s set a goal for himself to do one in each of the 50 states. “If there are any educators out there looking for authors to visit, invite me to your school,” he says. “I’d really like to fill up the whole map. I love any opportunity to share a story.” Last year, Young started a blog, Scribbling in the Margins. “Everyone has their cocktail party story they know is going to get a laugh,” he says. “I have dozens and dozens of them. With a school visit, I only get to present for an hour. I have 20 hours of stories and only an hour to fill, which is partly why I’m doing the blog. It’s an effort to get more of my stories out there.” Currently, Young has two board books in the works. “They’re both loosely based on other books of mine,”


TIMOTHY YOUNG

FEATURE

he says. “My puffin character has been very popular, so I’m doing an alphabet book called P is for Puffin. It’s going to feature a lot of exotic, lesser-known animals. And I’m doing another based on I’m Going to Outer Space!” Despite his success as an author, Young says he suffered Impostor Syndrome at first. “I felt more like an illustrator who had just figured out some words for a few books,” he says. “I couldn’t even tell people I was an author until after my fourth book, I Hate Picture Books, came out. It references a lot of beloved children’s books and makes fun of the classics that everyone loves.” Young says his transformation happened when a woman approached him at a book festival in New Jersey. While looking through I Hate Picture Books, the woman began to cry. “Granted, she was pregnant at the time,” says Young. “So maybe she was a little more emotional than she might have been, but once I saw her experiencing an emotional response to my book, that’s when I knew I truly was an author.” For more information about Timothy Young and his books or to read his blog, visit creaturesandcharacters.com.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

27


LIFE OF A READER

JUDY NEWMAN

Reader … I Mean, Car Mechanic-in-Chief Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, New Jersey. So I decided it was about time to learn about cars and get myself a hobby in the process. My husband, Jeff, is a classic car guy, so I asked him if he could help me get an old “beater” that I could work on and he could teach me how to do basic auto mechanics. At first, he did not believe me. He said me wanting an old car was as likely as him wanting to take up needlepoint (i.e., not going to happen).

1973 MGB Tundra green with an autumn leaf interior

I don’t pursue any real hobbies. I tried knitting and got halfway through a scraggly scarf before I decided no one would ever wear it and quit. I got an old sewing machine several years ago and still think about making a quilt from all of my son’s old baseball jerseys. But those wishful activities don’t qualify as hobbies. I also don’t do too well with mechanical things. I can change a light bulb, but I am pretty helpless when it comes to fixing things around the house. I don’t really understand how most things actually work. And cars in particular mystify me. I do not know how to change a flat tire on a car. I have no idea how to do an oil change. And I cannot comprehend for the life of me how, when I put the key in the ignition in my car, it turns on and I am able to drive to work, or visit my dad outside of Boston, or go to the library or to one of my favorite haunts, 28

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

But I was pretty sure I wanted to learn about cars and get a proper hobby, so I kept badgering him. When his friend O.J., another classic car guy, wanted to get rid of his 1973 MGB, which runs “some of the time,” Jeff got it for me for Mother’s Day. Apparently, this is a simple car with a basic engine— one I should be able to understand the workings of. While I have never really had a hobby, I have always loved to read—all kinds of books, magazines, newspapers … anything with words! So now, on my bedside table, on top of the piles of books that include Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing and a bound galley of Raina Telgemeier’s Guts, coming out in September, are two new classics: a large green tome called MGB with Engine Emission Control Supplement; and a second, smaller volume entitled MGB Handbook. I figure I might as well start reading about my new/old car while I wait for it to be made roadworthy enough to be delivered.


Judy Newman

LIFE OF A READER

Uh-oh. Now I am in over my head. I do not understand a word of this description of an engine, but I am going to keep at it. And at it. And even if it takes me forever to figure out where the “tappets from the camshaft” are, I am going to learn some fabulous new vocabulary words. So great for Scrabble! Bottom line: I am going to read my way into my new classic car hobby and master it.

The little book, MGB Handbook, has an intelligible introduction: This manual is intended to assist the skilled mechanic in carrying out repairs and replacement in a minimum of time. Other than the fact that I am not a “skilled mechanic,” this sounds reasonable. But then I turned to the first page of the second book, MGB with Engine Emission Control Supplement, and I started reading “Section A: The Engine”: “The overhead-valve engine is built in unit construction, with single-plate dry clutch. Cylinder bores are an integral part of the block and are water-jacketed their full length. The valves are set vertically in the detachable cylinder head and are operated through the medium of the rocker gear, push-rods, and tappets from the camshaft in the left-hand side of the cylinder block. Renewable, thin wall bearings support the counterbalanced crankshaft, while end-thrust is taken by the thrust washers fitted to the centre main bearing. The camshaft is driven by a duplex roller chain which is automatically adjusted by a spring-hydraulicoperated rubber slipper. The oil pump, distributor, and engine revolution indicator are driven from the camshaft; each component has its own drive shaft.”

Parents tell me all the time they are concerned that their kids are not reading enough “real books.” They “just” want to read graphic novels or “easy” books or comic books or magazines. I hear families tell me their kids will read instruction manuals for hours but never pick up a novel. I say (and lots of official research reports, including Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report, agree): let kids choose—and enjoy—what they like to read. No one ever told me what I could and couldn’t read. And I am a voracious reader. I read everything: classics, comic books, record books, modern-day novels, graphic novels, sports biographies … anything with words that inspires me and that I can learn from. And now … car manuals. All kids need to read confidently in order to do well in school and succeed in life. When kids choose their own books, they read more and read better. Reading is the only way for kids to build a rich vocabulary and be able to express themselves, get their ideas across, and make themselves understood. Through reading, kids (and adults!) can travel to new places, use their imagination, and learn about the world they live in. And figure out where that camshaft is.

Judy Newman is President and Reader-in-Chief of Scholastic Book Clubs. For more information, visit judynewmanatscholastic.com.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

29


Jacqueline Prata Turns a School Essay into an Award-Winning Book by Melissa Fales

30

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com


Jacqueline Prata

FEATURE

It took her a few years and a lot of effort, but Jacqueline Prata was so determined to transform an assignment from her seventh-grade English class into a children’s book, she wrote, illustrated, and published it herself. “The assignment was an ‘I Believe’ essay about belief in an unexpected object,” says Prata. “I wrote about fortune cookies and how people are like fortune cookies because they each have something special inside them. Since I was interested in exploring writing as a possible career, I decided to shape my essay into a book for kids.” Prata, now 17, released Fortune Cookie Surprise! (Rosebud Publishing) last summer on July 20, which happens to be National Fortune Cookie Day. Prata’s message to readers of Fortune Cookie Surprise! is that everyone has a talent to share. “It’s the story of a young girl named Emily who is eating at a Chinese

“Just like there’s a fortune inside every fortune cookie, there is a unique and special gift inside each one of us. I think that’s a beautiful idea. It doesn’t matter your age, race, gender, or family structure. We all have a unique gift to offer the world.”

restaurant with her family when she realizes that she’s a lot like a fortune cookie,” says Prata. “The cookie adds the final touch to the meal just like she adds the finishing touch to her family.” Over the course of the story, Emily comes to a deeper understanding about the potential of each individual. “Just like there’s a fortune inside every fortune cookie, there is a unique and special gift inside each one of us,” says Prata. “I think that’s a beautiful idea. It doesn’t matter your age, race, gender, or family structure. We all have a unique gift to offer the world.”

Prata says she approached the entire book-writing process as a learning experience. “For me, it was much less about trying to write a book as something I could put on my résumé and more about seeing if writing was something I wanted to do with my future,” she says. By self-publishing Fortune Cookie Surprise! Prata was able to maintain creative control over her story. “The process of taking an idea and developing it into a short story has taught me every aspect of book publishing, including writing, editing, illustrating, and printing,” she says.

After turning her essay in to her teacher, Prata submitted it to Teen Ink magazine. It won the Editor’s Choice Award and was published on the magazine’s website. “That’s when I began to think about turning it into a children’s book,” says Prata. “I know it might sound like a big jump to some people, but in my head it really wasn’t.”

The target audience for Fortune Cookie Surprise! is children ages 4 to 8, and Prata admits it was challenging for her to write for such a young age group. “I really had to try to think more like a kid,” she says. “And I knew I had to keep it funny, which I did through the use of silly fortunes. For example, one of the fortunes in the story was, ‘It’s about time I got out StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

31


FEATURE

Jacqueline Prata

of that cookie.’ Basically, while I was writing, I just thought about what I would’ve liked to have read when I was a little kid.” As part of her research, Prata read children’s books for inspiration and to get a feel for how the stories flowed. “I enjoyed looking at kids’ books from a more adult perspective,” she says. “I was able to appreciate all of the metaphors I might have missed when I was little. I approached them with a different eye than I did as a kid, so I was able to appreciate them through a new lens and in a whole different way.” Prata not only wrote all of the text for Fortune Cookie Surprise!, she painted each of the watercolor illustrations, too. “I learned how important consistency is with children’s books,” says Prata. “If the hair color is a little different, or the skin color is just a little off, it can be very confusing for little kids to follow the story. I had to do a lot of the illustrations over and over again in order to get the colors just right.” The book is printed on paper that is certified by Forests for All Forever, meaning that it complies with strict environmental standards. “That was really important to me,” says Prata. “I’m really passionate about helping the environment.” Prata, who lives in Harrison, New York, received a certificate of achievement from Harrison’s Mayor Ron Belmont, recognizing her for her accomplishments, including publishing Fortune Cookie Surprise! as well as for the volunteer work she does with organizations such as the Special Olympics and Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which raises money to help fight pediatric cancer. “I love volunteering and I think it’s really important to give back to the community,” says Prata. “Whatever I decide to do as a career, I plan to continue my volunteer work.” Currently, Prata is leaning towards studying English, Journalism, or Communications in college. “I really like writing and I always have,” she says. She’s even 32

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

hoping she’ll have the opportunity to write another children’s book, but says that will have to wait. “I don’t have as much time for that right now,” she says. “This summer I’ll be preparing for my senior year. I definitely have an idea that could be a sequel at some point, though.” For Prata, Fortune Cookie Surprise! is symbolic of more than the hard work it took to see it through to completion and significant beyond the lifelong lessons she learned during its publishing process. “This book is a representation of who I was and who I have become,” she says. “I wrote the essay in the seventh grade and I’m a junior in high school now. When I look at this book, I can see how much I’ve grown. It’s been a really special personal experience for me and it’s a privilege for me to get to share it with other people.” For more information about Jacqueline Prata and her book, visit jacquelineprata.com.


StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

33


FEATURE

ZacK BUSH

Zack Bush Celebrates the Joys of Fatherhood in Bestselling Picture Book by Melissa Fales

People who know Zack Bush, the nightlife kingpin and owner of one of Miami’s coolest clubs, Ball & Chain, are often surprised to learn he’s the same Zack Bush who wrote Made for Me, a tender children’s picture book about the awe a new father experiences welcoming his child into the world. Bush has enjoyed the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment that come from building thriving businesses from the ground up, but says they pale in comparison to becoming a father. It’s this indescribable feeling Bush seeks to share in Made for Me. “I’ve been fortunate and blessed with many successes,” says Bush. “At the end of the day, I’m a dad and husband, first and foremost. Other than my wife and my kids, there’s nothing I’m more proud of in the world than this book.” 34

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Made for Me (Familius) is dedicated to Bush’s wife Gina and their kids, 4-year-old Ace and 3-year-old Ava. “Writing this book did reawaken a writing bug in me,” says Bush, whose interest in writing harkens back further than his teens when he wrote for his high school newspaper. “I’ve had flashbacks to being very little and


ZacK BUSH

FEATURE

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

35


FEATURE

ZacK BUSH

experienced. That first step. Peaking behind curtains. The stuff in the book is all of the little moments I didn’t want to forget.” The story celebrates the everyday things that happen with a young child. “None of the things I write about are life-changing in the scheme of life,” says Bush. “But I was a first-time father and these were the moments that seemed so special to me.” Bush says one line from the book is a particular favorite, “’You laughed with delight as you slid at the park and clapped the first time you heard a dog bark,’” he quotes. “Just reading that line, the imagery becomes crystal clear in my mind.”

seeing a dedication in the front of a book,” he says. “I remember thinking it was so cool that the book was written for someone in particular. I always wanted to write a book for someone and dedicate it to them. As a dad, I really wanted to give that to my children. Having a book dedicated to them means nothing to them now, but someday it will. That was one of the driving forces that got me to the finish line with this book.” Bush’s desire to be an author got stashed away for a time as he pursued his career in the nightlife industry. “Life happens,” he says. “Things change and you don’t really think about the things you’re not doing.” When his son was born, Bush felt a wave of emotion like nothing he had ever experienced before. “My heart exploded,” he says. He searched for a children’s book that described the emotions he felt. “I just couldn’t find another book about dads that expressed them. That’s when I decided to write one and try to capture those feelings.” Writing about fatherhood energized Bush. “It brought back a passion I’ve always felt for writing,” he says. “I wanted to try to find the right words that would match the incredible, overwhelming feelings I had.” Made for Me follows a father and the baby who has stolen his heart in the best possible way. “It starts from the day the child is born and takes the reader through some of those moments that new parents have,” says Bush. “Everything in the book is based on a real moment I 36

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Bush says he’s always been someone who experiences feelings very deeply. “Looking back on my life, it’s been both a blessing and a curse to be able to feel things in that way,” he says. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have a brother who’s three years older than me. He looks at me as an emotional ball of mush, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Gregorio De Lauretis’ illustrations accentuate the differences between the huge, protective father and in sharp contrast, the small, innocent baby he holds so sweetly. “I can’t imagine anyone could’ve done a better job,” says Bush. “I didn’t imagine this hulk of a creature for the father but I love the way the book shows this giant man and this tiny baby and how it seems to highlight the love that exists between them. I think it really helps to bring my words to life.”


ZacK BUSH

Daddy’s Day Q&A by Ace and Ava Q: Daddy, Why did you write this book for me and Ava? A: That’s a great question! I wrote this book for you and Ava because when both of you were born, my heart exploded. It was unlike any other feeling I had ever felt. I did my very best to capture the feelings in my heart and bring them to life with Made for Me.

Q: What is the best part of being daddy? A: The best part of being a dad, is being YOUR dad! Watching you and Ava each and every day is the source of my greatest joy. Watching you both grow, laugh, learn, and love is unlike anything else. You and Ava (and Mommy, too) make being a daddy so incredibly special.

Q: Did your dreams change when you became a dad? A: They certainly did! My dreams now are ALL about you and Ava (and Mommy, of course). My worries, too. We used to just say our blessing at night for mommy and daddy—but now our prayers are so much more important because of you and Ava.

FEATURE

Bush decided to write his book in rhyme. “Those are my favorite books to read at night, especially when children are very young,” he says. “I noticed that my children seemed to be more engaged with books that rhymed.” Made for Me was originally released in 2018 and released in a second format, a board book, earlier this year. Bush is currently working on two more books. “They’re also born from love,” he says. “I write the best when I’m moved by emotion. The hardest challenge for me was taking the emotion in my heart and finding the right words to match that.” Soon after its release, Made for Me became a Publishers Weekly bestseller. Bush says he never dreamed that it would sell as many copies as it has or be so wellreceived. He enjoys getting feedback from readers, regularly checking his Amazon review page and Facebook page. “I read every single review,” he says. “I respond to every Facebook message. I love to hear the reactions from people. I love to hear things like ‘My husband cried when he read this book.’ This has been a labor of true love for me. To see my book resonating with people from all over keeps me smiling from the inside out.” To find out more about Zack Bush and Made for Me, visit facebook.com/MadeForMeBook or Instagram @ZackBush1.

Q: How do you make time to do everything you do? A: Balance is key. Luckily, Daddy is very efficient (at least I try to be). It is very important to separate work and family. While both are very important, I always find the time in a day for the people that I love most: you, Ava and Mommy. Without the three of you, nothing else matters.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

37


FEATURE

Pen Avey

One to Read:

Pen Avey by Melissa Fales

Author and illustrator Pen Avey’s debut children’s book is a humorous look at interplanetary communication and the universal experience of childhood. Dear Earthling: Cosmic Correspondent (Common Deer Press) introduces Dethbert Jones, a 10-year-old resident of the planet Crank, via the letters he writes to his pen pal who lives on Earth. Avey says she set out to make sure the book was not only a cosmic adventure, but also a comic one.

38

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com


Pen Avey

“Kids love to laugh,” says Avey. “As a parent and a grandparent, I know how it feels when you’re reading a book to a kid and you both think it’s funny. It’s such a magical moment when you have a good giggle together. That’s what I want to replicate with my writing. There’s enough serious stuff out there today. I only want to write funny stuff.” Avey lives in Norfolk, United Kingdom. While this is her first published book, she’s always been a writer. She’s written poetry and short stories for years and even spent some time working as a screenwriter. “It’s difficult to get things produced for television in the U.K.,” Avey says. “I was writing sketches and sitcoms but it was a struggle. I thought that writing children’s books might be a bit easier and more fun than writing for a children’s television series, and I was right. Now I think I’ve found my niche.”

FEATURE

get a lot of humor from the similarities of children’s lives between the two planets,” says Avey. For example, a popular video game on Earth is Mortal Combat, but Dethbert is fond of a video game called Mortal Wombat. Dethbert’s best friend, a robot named Andi Social, features prominently in his letters, as does his pet chickensnail, Precious, who was created by his father. “His dad’s an inventor,” says Avey. “He set out to make a chicken that would have her own hen house with her at all times, so he crossed a chicken with a snail.” Avey says she hopes Dethbert’s unusual pet will serve as another springboard for readers to exercise their minds. “I want my readers to think about what other unusual animal combinations they can come up with,” says Avey. “I want them to use their imaginations. I think that’s what a good children’s book does—it gets kids thinking and keeps them thinking even after they’ve put it down.”

When Avey started writing Dear Earthling: Cosmic Correspondent, she came up with the idea of a story about a boy writing to a pen pal first, and then the idea that the pen pal would be from space. “I thought long and hard about where the coolest place to have a pen pal would be,” she says. “I remember my children always wanted to have pen pals from different countries. Eventually I realized that having a pen pal from another planet would be the absolute best place possible.” In the book, Dethbert has joined Crank’s Space Cadets program. “It’s similar to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs we have here on Earth,” Avey explains. “Dethbert needs to have a pen pal from another planet in order to earn his Cosmic Correspondent badge.” In Dear Earthling: Cosmic Correspondent, readers are privy to the letters Dethbert writes to his pen pal. “There are no letters from the earthling to Dethbert,” Avey says. “I did that intentionally because I want the reader to imagine that they are Dethbert’s pen pal on Earth. I hope readers will think about how they would respond to Dethbert’s letters and what questions they might have for him about his life on Crank, and what they would want him to know about life on Earth. What would they write to Dethbert?” Children will recognize many aspects of Dethbert’s life, despite the fact that he’s an alien. “I thought I could

photo by Adi Thompson

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

39


FEATURE

Pen Avey

their very own design on the cover. It’s a pretty terrific prize.” For more details on the contest and how to enter, visit commondeerpress.com/cosmic-creativity. For more information about Pen Avey and Dear Earthling: Cosmic Correspondent, visit Dear-Earthling.com. Readers looking for a pen pal of their own will find Dethbert’s email address on the site. “I have a feeling that Dethbert would love to hear from other earthlings,” says Avey. “Who knows? You may even get a letter back from him.”

“As a parent and a grandparent, I know how it feels when you’re reading a book to a kid and you both think it’s funny. It’s such a magical moment when you have a good giggle together. That’s what I want to replicate with my writing. There’s enough serious stuff out there today. I only want to write funny stuff.”

One aspect of Dear Earthling: Cosmic Correspondent that Avey particularly labored over was getting the pacing for the chapters just right. “Each of the chapters is very short,” she says. “I think children, and the adults who are reading to them, like to have nice short chapters so you never have to stop in the middle of one. In this book, the chapters are nicely spaced. I’m a big advocate for reading at bedtime and I think it’s a lovely way to end the day, stopping at the end of a chapter and looking forward to hearing the next chapter the next night at bedtime.” According to Avey, plans are in the works for at least one more Dethbert book to be published. Between now and June 30, Common Deer Press is holding a contest for artistic earthling children between the ages of 8 and 12 to design a cover for Dear Earthling: Cosmic Correspondent. “There will be a winner from the U.S., one winner from Canada, and one from the U.K.,” says Avey. “They’ll each win five copies of the book with 40

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com


NEW FROM GREEN WRITERS PRESS & GREEN PLACE BOOKS SPRING 2019! OFFLINE, A YA ROMANTIC COMEDY ABOUT CELL PHONE ADDICTION. —————————

minds us t, Offline re t and earnes ings we migh th e Humorous th e iat d apprec —Foreword to unplug an r phones.” ou in d rie bu miss while

Offline by Brian Adams | YA-Rom/Com Climate Fiction 978-1-7327434-2-7 | Paperback Original 6 x 9 | 288 pages | $12.99 | Pub: April 22, 2019

“Offline is a witty tale about ‘screenagers’ who come face to face with real life. . . characters are hilarious and thoughtful in this fast-paced story for the i-generation.” —Sarah Ward, author of Aesop Lake “An internet-obsessed teenager discovers a new life offline in this YA romantic comedy. . . . A witty and tech-savvy love story with just the right amount of charm.” —Kirkus “Brian’s stories are an example of how humor can be used to shed light on serious issues, without demeaning those issues, and how youth can be empowered to take on Big Things.” —Climate Change Author Spotlight / Dragonfly Giving voice to writers and artists who will make the world a better place www.greenwriterspress.com Distributed by IPG

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

41


TEACHING TOOLBOX

Teaching Toolbox:

Keep Summer Reading Fresh and Fun by Larissa Juliano Summer is almost here, and for so many of us, this is a warm and welcome reprieve from the routine and early-rising bus schedule. This summer, make reading and playing a top priority for your children and/or students (yes, there are lots of summer school and camps happening during these sunny months!). I often joke with my family that I will not be a cruise director all summer, and that this is time for their imaginations to really soar, but I will

42

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

be on hand to give some prompting and ideas as they transition their busy brains to less electronic time and more creating with reading and STEAM activities intertwined throughout. When you read or talk to your young child about books, he or she develops important language skills, comprehension about books and themes, and knowledge about how stories are constructed


TEACHING TOOLBOX

that will help him or her to become a strong reader and writer. Most importantly, when parents and children enjoy summer reading together, children become engrained with the knowledge that reading is important to their families, and therefore will be important to them as well ... it’s not just a “teacher” or “school” thing. I’ve come up with some suggestions of summer reading possibilities to keep it fresh and exciting for those cherished, fast flying, summer days. Going to the library? Of course! Attending story times at your local bookstore? Absolutely. Here are a few of my tried and true activities/ideas to keep reading skills sharp, imaginations active, and curiosity about the world around us satisfied. Plan ahead … just a bit. One of my favorite summer projects to do with my three little ones is to buy them a special notebook and fresh markers. This is their summer diary and I encourage them to write or draw in it every other day, if not daily. This is often an activity I do during the quieter times of the day, and keeping that paper and pencil handy keeps those literacy and writing skills fresh. I also like to jot a little “Mommy Memory” on the page so I can look back and remember their little faces working hard on their notebooks. I also try and stock up on some dollar store prizes before the summer begins and tuck them away in a secret spot. Love of reading should always be the incentive, but having a few little treasures and trinkets to entice busy bodies to sit for a few minutes while they settle and relax into a book is always ok, too. Tentatively plan a theme week of topics throughout the summer and go every Monday or Tuesday to check out fiction and nonfiction books about these specific subjects (with free choice always being an option for added reading too, of course). Some of my favorites are: After being inspired by some fabulous nonfiction bird books I’ve read this year, I love the idea of making our own birdseed! There are so many

wonderful ideas online to attract our feathery friends to come for a summer visit! Check out some bird watching or bug books (there are so many kid-friendly ones available online or at your library) and head to the backyard or park to observe. Add an artistic element and use some oil pastels to create nature pictures of the birds, bugs, or bees you’ve seen (or hope to see!). And definitely visit storymonsters.com and have your child write a poem or submit a picture about their observations and newfound creature friends. Seek-and-find books about various buildings/living spaces (skyscrapers, castles, tree-houses, caves) and have your readers get ideas, sketch some out, and then create their own structures out of various building materials (blocks, popsicle sticks and clay, marshmallows, toothpicks, magnetic tiles, etc). This is always a favorite in my house and my children become so inspired with the creations they see in these beautifully photographed or illustrated books. Despite busy hands moving and engineer minds working, their minds will absorb the words and pictures and make more connections that books can inspire our imagination in so many ways. Find a favorite character or series to read about and create a treat or craft that goes along with that character. Otis the Tractor and some Farm Animal Treats, humorous horse books with some equestrian-themed cupcakes, Pete the Cat and some bright blue snacks, unicorns and fairies and a fairy garden (this is a favorite at my house!), Minecraft and some STEM-inspired building activity. Embrace your child’s interest, even if it is electronic-themed and connect it to reading and creating! A favorite website of mine is growingbookbybook.com which has amazing ideas and resources to keep the entire family reading together. Make the middle of your day a special rest time for books and reading. Have them enjoy a snack while reading so it never feels “punitive” but just a fun, quiet experience. Play special music in their rooms at this time, print some coloring pages from authors’ websites to go along with it, and encourage them

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

43


TEACHING TOOLBOX

to color in their sketchbooks about their books as well (add different art mediums—pencils, crayons, scented markers, etc). Car rides or long road trips? Surprise your children with a summer bucket of books next to their car seat with fresh finds that you checked out from the library, discovered tucked in the back of their bookshelf, or very inexpensive finds at your local second-hand store (I always buy tons of gently used books for my children’s daycare!) No matter what, try to do something literacyand reading-related every single day. Working parenthood is busy. Staying home is busy. Carpooling is busy. Summer camps and activities, while wonderful and important, take up a lot

of time during your day. Do not put pressure on yourself where the reading experience turns stressful for both you and your little ones. But no matter what, one of our responsibilities as parents and teachers is to nurture a love of learning during all months of the year. A quiet bedtime story every night after a long day of sports, swimming, ice cream truck catching, and play dates will be a memory you and your sunkissed child will remember forever.

Larissa Juliano is an elementary school teacher, reading specialist, and children’s book author. Follow her on Twitter @larissasjuliano or visit larissajuliano.com.

LET’S READ $5 FOR A FULL YEAR

SUBSCRIBE TODAY! 1-year (12 issues) digital subscription is $5.

storymonsters.com/subscribe

44

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com


StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

45


READING

LIST Just Like You

by Keosha Sath Just Like You is an educational story that teaches children about the many jobs that grownups do. It especially empowers young girls by showing them that they can go into any field they want. It also encourages girls to think about obtaining science, technology, engineering, and mathematics jobs, as there is a shortage of women in these fields. This book teaches girls they can have real careers and also be mothers at the same time.

Pencil’s Perfect Picture

by Jodi McKay Pencil has a problem. He wants to draw his dad a picture—the PERFECT picture! But, he doesn’t know what makes art perfect. Does the picture need action? Should it look realistic? When Pencil asks his friends, Marker, Pastel, Brush, the Crayons, and Chalk, they all give him different answers. What will Pencil do? A playful tale for anyone who has ever wanted to create something “just right.” Published by Albert Whitman & Co. (May, 2019)

Mambo’s Tail

by Jodie Boulet-Daughters Story Monsters Approved! For All Dog Lovers. Mambo was just a little puppy playing in the yard with his brothers and sisters when he first discovered his tail. He felt a swoosh behind him and the adventure began. He learned all the things his tail could do. Join Mambo on his wonderful adventure about all the things his tail can do. Available online at mambostail.com

46

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

The Boy Who Talks in Bits and Bobs

by Eva Wong Nava Owen is a boy like any other ordinary little boy and girl his age. His legs love to jump. His hands love to play. He loves to play the ukulele and he loves to sing. But Owen speaks in bits and bobs. What can Owen do to help him make the right sounds and to say the right words? A plan is hatched and Owen finds that anything is possible with love, kindness, and patience.

The Forever Kid

by Elizabeth Mary Cummings When a child dies, a family is forever changed. The sense of grief and loss are now part of their daily life. Every family event, particularly birthdays and anniversaries, are painful. Times of celebration are touched with sadness. Can there be any comfort for families in this time of grief? This narrative told through the voice of a sibling looks at how a family carries on while still remembering and connecting with their departed “forever” child.

Gracie Lou

by Larissa Juliano Gracie Lou is bored. And lonely. What is a little girl to do when there’s nowhere to go and no one to play with? Wish upon a star! As Gracie Lou travels through the starry sky to magical lands, she experiences exciting and whimsical adventures that ignite all her five senses. Readers will delight in the vivacity of Gracie Lou’s imagination (or is it?) as they anticipate where the curly-haired cutie will head to next.


SUMMER READING LIST

I See the Sun series

by Satya House Explore the world! Life in different countries seen from a child’s point of view. Each bilingual picture book in this award-winning series focuses on one country and one day in the life of one child with a story told from the child’s perspective. Learn about different cultures, family life, and language in a way that is sensitive to each culture. Age-appropriate (5+) country facts and a glossary for extended learning are included in each book. NEW in 2019: I See the Sun in India. Other titles are I See the Sun in. . .USA, Mexico, China, Nepal, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkey, and Myanmar (Burma). satyahouse.com

Little Cat Lost

by Judy Bergman Hochberg Cats are curious creatures, and Little Cat is no exception. One day she sees a bunch of balloons float by her window. Intrigued, Little Cat follows the balloons, and soon finds herself lost in the middle of the zoo! Who are all these mysterious creatures? Will Little Cat find her way home? Who will help her? The menagerie of animal characters she meets are sure to satisfy the curiosity of readers young and old!

The Trampling Trembling Tanglelow Tale

Snowballs For Severance: The Terrifically True Story of Dane Best and the Snowball Ban

by Richie Frieman A 100-year-old law in Severance, Colorado contains wording that makes it illegal to throw snowballs. That was the case until 9-year-old Dane Best decided to make a change. Needless to say, overturning an almost century-old snowball ban was no easy task. Despite all odds, Dane Best was able to make history. This book is the real life, TRUE STORY of what can happen when someone decides to stand up for what they believe in.

Jet & Scoot: A Story About Us

by Stephanie Smith-Kenny and Lauren Looney Introducing, JET & Scoot, two best friends that can’t wait to spend “Adventure-Saturday” together. Readers ages 4-7 can be a part of JET & Scoot’s Adventure-Saturday by riding with JET on his jetride, and with Scoot on her pooSH bike. The picture key and phrase key are a fun way for young readers to learn to read by following along with the story. JET & Scoot, a story about us, is from first-time author, Stephanie SmithKenny and first-time illustrator, Lauren Looney.

by Greg McGoon Tension brews as a battle ensues within your mind. The Tramples and Trembles come face to face. These tricky types of Tanglelows know how to create a bit of chaos. Travel along the Tanglelows’ trail and work towards keeping our worries, doubts, and fears at bay. Greg McGoon brings us the second installment in the ongoing Tanglelows tale exploring the inner-workings of children’s emotions. The Tanglelows is sure to open up wonderful conversations and meaningful explorations for years to come.

Traveling the Twisting Troubling Tanglelows’ Trail

by Greg McGoon Take a journey inside your mind and learn of the Tanglelows. They exist in everyone’s mind. The part of us that twist and turn our thoughts into questions and doubts about ourselves. This is a guide through the messy thoughts we have from the day to day, showing us how to be kinder to ourselves and to others as we twist along their path to a place of selfacceptance and understanding.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

47


SUMMER READING LIST

Discovering Black Bears

by Margaret J. Anderson, Nancy Field, Karen Stephenson, Illustrated by Michael Maydak This wonderfully interactive book explores the life of the black bear, its behavior and habitat. It covers bearhuman conflicts and how problems can be resolved. Children learn about real-life bear biologists. It has a sheet of bear stickers and 20 activities to challenge minds. Mom’s Choice Award and Finalist, Foreword magazine Book of the Year in the nature category. Discount 20% off $8.95 - code SM20. Order and explore other titles at Dog-Eared Publications. www.dog-eared.com

Discovering Sharks and Rays

by Nancy Field, Illustrated by Michael Maydak This exciting book explores the natural history, environmental relationships and plight of sharks and rays in our world’s threatened oceans using engaging activities. Children explore shark neighborhoods, create an ocean mobile, travel a protected area maze and survive a shark journey. Shark stickers included. Awards: Ben Franklin Juvenile-Young Adult Nonfiction, Foreword magazine FinalistBook of the Year, iParenting Hottest Products. Discount 20% off $7.95 - code SM20. Order and explore other titles at DogEared Publications. www.dog-eared.com.

Cozmo’s Wish

by Janet Tlachac-Toonen Cozmo’s Wish is a rhyming tale about a unicorn and his dream to be more colorful. Wishing on a star doesn’t work, so Cozmo and his firefly friends embark on a mission to find a forest artist’s studio. Cozmo hopes that she can help him to be more colorful. In the end, he does change with the help of his glowing friends, and for their efforts, they are changed forever, too. The prequel to Tlachac-Toonen’s Firefly Cave. staytoondpublish.com

48

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Jitterflies

by Joanna Rosner Jitterflies is a story about a child who naturally feels nervous on the first day of school. Many children worry about what will happen on Day One. Will they make friends; will the teacher be nice; will the work be difficult? This worried feeling tingles in their tummies from make-believe beings called Jitterflies! School can be fun once these Jitterflies flutter away with a few great experiences at school. mrzpublishing.com

Mirror, Mirror

by Barbara J. Freeman Mirror, Mirror by Barbara J. Freeman, a former educator and counselor, raises the level of self-esteem and promotes levels of confidence for young readers by showing them that beauty comes in all colors! This dynamic, motivating book was awarded a silver medal in the 2018 Moonbeam Awards in the category of Mind, Body, Soul/ Self-Esteem. Mirror, Mirror is the perfect gift for lifting young spirits!

The Adventures of Mimi and Lulu

by Hayde Romero Mimi and Lulu’s adventures happen in their dreams. Bed time is always the beginning to an adventure. This book contains two adventures, “The Fallen Star” and “The River Mystery.” In “The Fallen Star,” Mimi and Lulu along with their sidekick Magellan, need to figure out a way to reunite a baby star with her mommy. “The River Mystery” focuses on solving a puzzling dilemma. Both stories deliver a message of kindness. Available at Amazon.com.


SUMMER READING LIST

It’s Just a Bunnypalooza

by Brenda Faatz and Peter Trimarco Lizzy learns dance moves from her animal friends, but is embarrassed when children giggle at her overactive imagination. So she becomes a firm “non-believer” until the neighborhood bunnies decide to organize an intervention! “It’s Just a Bunnypalooza champions the power of imagination to bring people together.” – Foreword Clarion Reviews “Infectiously enthusiastic about dance and imagination. The bouncy, vibrant verbs make this an excellent read-aloud tale … fullcolor, whimsical illustrations nicely capture the story’s kinetic joy.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Adventures of Team Super Tubie

by Kristin Meyer This empowering book helps teach acceptance and inclusion by featuring kids with feeding tubes (called Super Tubies) who use their tubes to gain super powers and heroically save the day! The book depicts children of different genders, races, and types of tubes. While their parents think they are sleeping, these heroes spring into action to use their feeding tubes to fight fires, battle dragons, and capture bank thieves. Being a Super Tubie is so much fun!

A Family for Leona

With the Courage of a Mouse (The Superhero School Series)

by Donna Sager Cowan Catt wants a home and friends she can count on, but suddenly lands in Sweet Meadows and discovers she can talk. Is she asleep or dead? This was Simon Cheddar’s worst day. Instead of celebrating his first day at Superhero School, he’s on the breakfast menu! The hawk wants an easy meal—a quick snip and trim changes that. But another predator waits. So long destiny. Armed with a matchstick, Simon speeds toward certain death.

The Word Dancer

by Maxine Rose Schur When the Ugsome traitors seize the kingdom of Wisland, Wynnfrith flees with Oliver, the little crown prince. On their treacherous journey, Wynnfrith believes herself fearful, yet her determination to keep Oliver safe impels her to face danger bravely. From the mysterious Word Dancer, Wynnfrith learns that both head and heart ignites a word’s power. Can Wynnfrith unleash this power within herself? If she can, she’ll not only realize her true self, but perhaps even crush Wisland’s enemies.

by Beverly Stowe McClure Ten-year-old Leona Chapter doesn’t understand why her papa left his six children at the Brooklyn Home for Homeless Children after their mother’s death in 1921. Each day she prays he’ll return and take his children home. God, however, isn’t listening. Her brothers and sisters are either adopted or run away, leaving only Leona and Baby Mildred in the orphanage. Leona promises she and Mildred will be together for always. A promise she cannot keep.

i am Elephant, i am Butterfly

by Leslie Tall Manning When 16-year-old Simone Wheeler is accepted into the elite Camp Kamama for obese girls, she unearths a diary belonging to a beautiful girl from the despised Camp Felina across the lake. But Phoebe the Felina has done more than scribble words in a journal: she has carved a cryptic path that Simone must follow—no matter what the consequences.” Ages 14 & up. ISBN 978-0960017713

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

49


SUMMER READING LIST

Adventures in Boogieland

by A.R. Bey Arcadia seemed to be an ordinary town for Simon X, who wanted nothing more than to become the best trumpeter ever. After auditioning for the prestigious Bartholomew Performing Arts Academy, he and his classmates Lulu DeBarge, the harpist, Krupa Patel, the violinist, and Maxwell Winehouse, the saxophonist, find themselves in Boogieland. Led by the eccentric Madame Charisma Divine and the wonder of her ways, will the children overcome their fears to unleash the music within?

The Heath Cousins and the Kingsgate Bridge

by Eileen Hobbs Addie B. And her cousins Jack, Beanie, and Bodie are back in Book 2 of the Heath Cousins series. This time, they join Addie at her home in England. Addie receives a mysterious note from a girl in China named Mai Li. Gemma, the kind woman from the Garden of Choice, is in trouble, and she needs help. Join Addie and her friends on as they go back to another world through the Kingsgate Bridge!

The Bigfoot Paradox

by Rebecca Coyte J.T. Meeks is a shy, 12-year-old kid who has always been interested in finding a bigfoot. When infamous bigfoot hunter Billy Matrix invades his town, J.T. gets involved in a hunt for bigfoots that quickly spirals out of control. J.T. must dig deep within himself to find the courage to do what’s right and stick up for his friends, both human and sasquatch. 2016 eLit Award winner for juvenile/young adult fiction.

50

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Sandalrella: Perceptions of a Teenage Famepire

by John Delery Research suggests humans can live 21 days without food and a week without water, ah, but have scientists determined how long teenagers — the most delicate and exceptional mammals of all — can survive without a single text message? Sandalrella answers that critical question and humorously explores other social media and pop-culture terrain in this parody of fairy tales, Greek mythology, and modern tabloid-news shows. Story Monsters Ink calls this young-adult satire “Creative, sharp. Truly a voice to be heard.” Available at sandalrella.com

Tucks and Me: Crispus Attucks and America 17661773

by Katherine V. Stevens An unlikely friendship between a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks and Gabe, a sickly 10-yearold boy is the thread Katherine V. Stevens uses to unravel the events that occurred on the Eastern Seaboard during the late 1700s. As a bond of friendship and trust forms between Tucks and Gabe, readers will learn about the hard life of being a seaman and what life was like in colonial America. A must-read for anyone who wants to learn about this important chapter of American history.

The Bigfoot Rebellion

by Rebecca Coyte People vanishing from the forest without a trace. Reports of large, hairy beasts stalking hikers and campers. Sensationalist news shows blame it all on bigfoots, but J.T. Meeks doesn’t believe it. After all, these are the same gentle creatures that befriended him and immersed him in an esoteric world of longheld secrets. He’s on a mission to find out the truth, and only hopes he makes it to “Ground Zero” before famed bigfoot hunter Billy Matrix arrives.


SUMMER READING LIST

Dream Me

by Kathryn Berla Babe’s dreams of the prefect guy, Zat, seem so real that she begins to question whether her dreams could be something more. Zat, a dreamer from a time in the distant future when humans no longer dream, risks it all to travel back in time and live in Babe’s dreams. But can the dream become reality? “A thoughtful, engaging novel that combines genres well.” —Kirkus Reviews

Going Places

by Kathryn Berla Everyone had high expectations for Hudson Wheeler. But everything went downhill after his father tragically died in Iraq. Now facing his senior year of high school without his best friends by his side Hudson seizes homeschooling as an opportunity to retreat from the world. “Readers of realistic fiction will appreciate the rich, engaging characters and be drawn into this story of overcoming sadness to open one’s heart to another.” — VOYA, Perfect Ten Review

The House at 758

by Kathryn Berla Sixteen-year-old Krista is still grieving the death of her mother when her father’s new girlfriend moves into their home. Distancing herself from everyone around her, Krista spends her time watching a mysterious house, the house at 758. It isn’t until her grandfather makes a surprise visit that Krista is finally able to confront her grief and begin to let things go. “… it unfolds beautifully into a tale that teens and tweens will enjoy.” —School Library Journal

The Wonderful Adventures of Wandering Willy & Wendy: Willy Visits Japan

by Charles Winslow and Brandon Taylor Every child should be exposed to different cultures in order to better understand and appreciate the diversity in the world. Join the adventures as Willy and Wendy travel the world, discover new cultures, taste different food, make new friends, and learn how to become better global citizens. Willy Visits Japan exposes K-5 students to a new culture through: an engaging story, short quizzes that test reading comprehension, interactive activities and thought-provoking discussion questions. willyandwendy.com

Beau & Bett

by Kathryn Berla Beau LeFrancois is stuck paying off a family debt by working at the Diaz Ranch. Beau’s prepared to work, but he’s definitely not prepared for the infamous temper of Bett Diaz, also known as “The Beast” at school. A contemporary twist on a classic fairy tale, Beau & Bett is a timely story of family, friendship, and the power of speaking out and standing up for yourself.

The Nature Club: Taking Flight

by Rachel Mazur The Nature Club books invite middle-grade readers to explore the outdoors with Izzy, Tai, Brooke, Zack, and Miguel. Through their adventures, they learn to help the wildlife they love while helping each other with the challenges of growing up. Readers learn about wildlife, conservation, and how to take action to make a difference. Each book highlights one kid in the club. Taking Flight highlights Izzy, and is the first in the five-book series.

Click on the book cover to purchase any of the above titles. To advertise your book in our Reading List, contact Cristy Bertini at cristy@storymonsters.com for rate information.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

51


MONSTERS AT THE MOVIES

Avengers: Endgame reviewed by Nick Spake • grade: A+

By all accounts, the MCU is an endeavor that shouldn’t have worked. Prior to the original Iron Man, Marvel movies didn’t have the best reputation, churning out duds like Hulk, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four. Even the Spider-Man and X-Men movies went off the rails by the time they got to movie number three. What made Marvel Studios so confident that they could build an entire cinematic universe around these comic book icons? Thanks to the leadership of Kevin Feige, a diverse array of artists, and a perfectly insync ensemble, however, the MCU has proven to be an unprecedented triumph. Avengers: Endgame is the ultimate testament to this franchise’s success, serving as the culmination of 11 years and 22 movies. It’s also the most satisfying cinematic event since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of King. Avengers: Infinity War left us on a cliffhanger that made The Empire Strikes Back look like a feel-good movie. To even touch upon what happens next would unleash a tidal wave of spoilers. Let’s just say that our remaining heroes are left with one last option following Thanos’ devastating snap, sending them on a potential suicide mission. Whatever your fan theories are, all you need to know is that Avengers: Endgame is the ideal balance of everything we’ve come to expect from the MCU: ingenious character interactions, colorful action, and an ambitious story that somehow doesn’t collapse under its own weight. In many respects, superhero movies are to this generation what historical epics were to the golden age of cinema. On that basis, Endgame draws comparison to the likes of Ben-Hur, Spartacus, and Lawrence of Arabia. Clocking in at just over three hours, this film would feel gratuitously long if this was any other franchise. Since Marvel has already put in over a decade of character development and world-building, however, we’re hooked from the opening shot to the final credit. What makes this especially impressive is that the second act 52

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

of the film is largely dialogue-driven, playing out more like Inception than a traditional comic book movie. Even when these witty characters are just sitting around a table formulating a plan, though, every word has us on bated breath. Although the MCU movies are all connected, most of them still work as standalone stories. To fully appreciate Endgame, however, you’ll want to go in with the previous 21 films crossed off your bucket list. The movie is full of callbacks to previous entries, ranging from subtle to imperative. Even some of the weaker Marvel movies, like Thor: The Dark World, are referenced in surprisingly clever ways. This whole film is a love letter to dedicated fans,


making us nostalgic while also leaving us guessing what’s going to happen next. If you’ve been following the MCU since 2008, you’re going to applaud several times throughout Endgame. Chances are you’re going to cry at least once as well. The film delivers virtually everything its target audience could want, especially during its climax. Every storyline, every character arc, and every risk the filmmakers have taken comes full circle in the final act. Watching all these threads come together, it doesn’t merely feel like you’re watching a superhero movie. It feels like you’ve witnessed an important landmark in cinema. While the MCU still has a lengthy lifespan ahead, this is the best possible way to close the book on the Infinity Saga. Each Avenger is exactly where they should be and no Infinity Stone is left unturned. In short, it’s a marvelous masterpiece. 

Nick Spake has been working as a film critic for ten years reviewing movies on his website: nickpicksflicks.com.

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

53


BOOK REVIEWS

The Whole Wide World and Me

by Toni Yuly (Candlewick) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano I loved this book. A little girl is outside in nature, appreciating the world and all the gifts it has to offer us. The story is told from the little girl’s perspective as she compares herself to a flower, fish, cloud, wave, and pebble. Bold and bright illustrations showcase the beautiful outdoors, sparkly sunsets, fluffy flowers, with a sweet girl smiling all throughout the story. This book is also a great kick-off to a nature unit, or an “all about me” study, mindfulness, and more. I am very much looking forward to adding Ms. Yuly to the author and illustrator study rotation in my own classroom! (Ages 2-5)

The Little Labradoodle: Puppy Pick Up Day

by April M. Cox, Len Smith (Little Labradoodle Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Many of us know the thrill of a puppy pick up day. The anticipation that mounts till the day arrives and we bring our little buddy home. In this story, we find that same excitement, but from the puppy’s perspective. Illustrations are bright and lively and will keep young readers engaged to the end. Under the same title is a companion coloring book filled with over 40 pages of fun activities. (Ages 2-9)

Bathtime Dance

by Candace Smith (Warren Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil  This sweet, brightly illustrated rhyme is sure to bring a tap to your toes, and a happy smile to your little ones. It’s fun to read, and to sing along to in their own personal bath time. A perfect way to end a day. (Ages 3+)

54

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

How the Farm Wakes Up

by Sherry L. Hoffman, Jacqueline L. Challiss Hill Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil A perfect book for spring! It wakes the day with joy and anticipation. It might just become your favorite mantra in greeting each day. It awakes with such appreciation for the life around us. The illustrations are bright and lively, making this an all-around feel-good experience. (Ages 3+)

Sadie and the Silver Shoes

by Jane Godwin, Anna Walker (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This delightful tale offers a warmth of inviting emotions. The blended feeling of multiple siblings, adjusting to and finding our identity in the midst of it. The pure joy in the small things that are truly ours alone, and for this reader, the love of something sparkly. Sadie discovers a very valuable truth when she loses one of her treasured sparkly silver shoes. Not all things that are gone are lost, but sometimes merely misplaced. And their recovery can often bring even greater treasures. A great story for the heart. (Ages 3-7)

Life with My Family

by Renee Hooker, Karl Jones, Kathryn Durst (Penguin Workshop) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman A young girl wonders what her family would be like as various groups of wild animals. Vivid illustrations by Kathryn Durst showcase the family’s characteristic features as animals. The little girl soon realizes that no family is perfect and she appreciates her family just as it is. This is a helpful story to bring up conversations about families, differences, and resolutions. (Ages 3-7)


BOOK REVIEWS

Grandpa’s Stories

Manners and Me: An Easy-Peasy Guide for Kids and the Grown Ups Who Love Them

by Nancy Dorrier, Ralph Voltz (Brown Books Kids) Reviewer: Julianne Black A great book for kids and parents! Each page is filled with examples of day-to-day situations in which kids find themselves but about which they aren’t always taught. In a busy household, it is sometimes hard to take the time to review step-by-step basic manners and easy ways kids can help out. At school, many kids are learning social customs simply by trial and error. This book is a great reminder to stop and review basic acts of kindness, gratitude, and helpfulness. (Ages 3-7)

The Rabbit, the Dark, and the Cookie Tin

by Nicola O’Byrne (Nosy Crow) Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge What’s out there in the dark when we are fast asleep? Does the world stop? Rabbit doesn’t want to go to bed, so he decides to trap The Dark, and trap it in a cookie tin so he can stay up all night long. But then The Dark reminds Rabbit of all the good things that darkness brings. This is an original storyline and perfect for a child who is frightened of the dark. There is a purpose for all things in this world and this delightful story explains the purpose of the darkness. (Ages 3-7)

Maximillian Villainous

by Margaret Chiu Greanias (Running Press Kids) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman Will Max ever fit into his family of villains? In Maximillan Villainous, author Margaret Chiu Greanias unravels a tale about the evil doings of the Villainous Family. Meanwhile, main character Max befriends a soft, cuddly bunny despite pleas from the misguided family. This story allows for a possible discussion of good vs. evil and the importance of making positive choices despite pressures from outside sources. (Ages 4-8)

by Joseph Coelho, Allison Colpoys (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Christine Irvin In beautiful, lyrical prose, a little girl reflects on the past year she spent with her grandpa. Season by season, she remembers the special times they had together, exploring parks in the spring, putting a race track together in the summer, using the notebook her grandfather made for her in the autumn, and listening to her grandpa tell stories in the winter. A poignant look at what it’s like to lose someone special. (Ages 4-8)

Let Me Sleep, Sheep!

by Meg McKinlay, Leila Rudge (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This is a comical new look at sleepless nights and counting sheep. The illustrations are warm, inviting, and fun as we chuckle our way through the story. This awardwinning team has done it again! (Ages 5-8)

What If Mercury Had Marshmallows?

by Jarrett Whitlow, Daniela Dogliani (Warren Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil The imagery and rhythm of this story are sure to anchor the facts in little readers’ memories! With time we’ve discovered the two have a great impact on learning, and in this case the wonders of the planets will thrill the imagination with delight. Truly a fun way to learn! (Ages 5-8)

Stay, Benson!

by Thereza Rowe (Thames & Hudson) Reviewer: Julianne Black This book is so full of ’70s nostalgia—crisp, bold, primary color graphics; unusual die-cut, peek-a-boo pages; no-nonsense, sans-serif black fonts; a runaway dog; and a pack of helpful animal friends—it’s a glorious time machine back to the classics! A fun story told from the dog’s perspective and illuminated with excellent design choices, Stay, Benson! is a keeper! (Ages 5-8) StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

55


BOOK REVIEWS

Rocket Out of the Park

by Andrea Cascardi, The Jim Henson Company (Candlewick) Reviewer: Christine Irvin Combining science with a good storyline is a winning combination. Dot and her friends go to the Creative Fair, where they learn how to build simple rockets. Dot’s mom helps them make their own rockets. Each one is based on the same principles of propulsion, but each one is different and unique. (Ages 5-8)

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

by Sophia Gholz, Kayla Harren (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The best time to plant a tree is now.” This is a true story of a little boy who lives in India. Jadav Payeng was an observant young man who was concerned by the loss of forest and small wildlife. His elders advised him to plant trees to help the animals. He began planting and harvesting his forest. Wildlife returned to his little acreage. They tried to chop his trees down for housing and hunt the animals for their horns and furs. He protected them from devastation and his forest was named “Molai.” This is a story of the perseverance of one man. “Only by growing plants, the Earth will survive.” (Ages 5-8)

What Do You Celebrate? Holidays and Festivals Around the World

by Whitney Stewart, Christiane Engel (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Christine Irvin Have you ever wondered what kids in other parts of the world celebrate? Learn about some national holidays that take place around the globe. Each holiday description is enhanced by some type of activity (either a craft or a recipe), as well as several photographs, a large, full-page illustration, and a list of vocabulary words. The book is filled with great information about 14 worldwide holidays and festivals and is beautifully illustrated. (Ages 5-9)

56

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers

by Fred Rogers, Luke Flowers (Quirk Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Everyone knows the soft sweet tone of Mister Rogers, and sharing a wonderful day in his neighborhood. We all wanted to be his neighbor! The friendly puppeteer in his red sweater made an amazing impact on the world around him. This lovely book shares 75 of his delightful songs, all illustrated with familiar characters and settings that will bring joy to those who remember the happy times they spent in his neighborhood, as well as new friends to glean his wisdom and genuine kindness. (Ages 6-8)

The Nocturnals: The Chestnut Challenge

by Tracey Hecht, Josie Yee (Fabled Films Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry Another great adventure for Bismark the Sugar Glider, Tobin the Pangolin, and Dawn the Fox, who are all competing to be the Chestnut Checkers Champion. Chandler the Chinchilla challenges them to a game claiming that he is the true Chestnut Checkers Champion. Who will win? This is such a fun Early Reader book that is not just entertaining to read, it also teaches the moral lesson of fair play. I believe parents/grandparents will enjoy reading this book to their little ones. Younger readers will love all the Nocturnals books; this is another fun-to-read story in this collection and a great bedtime book. (Ages 6-8)

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems

by Paul B. Janeczko, Richard Jones (Candlewick) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano This book is so unique and packed with poetry from some incredibly talented and famous writers from the past and present (Nikki Grimes, Helen Frost, Kwame Alexander, Douglas Florian, just to name a few!). Almost 50 poems are compiled and each one is about how to do something: going on a swing, saying your prayers, catching snowflakes, mixing pancakes, toasting marshmallows, and of course, how to meet a hedgehog! Pictures are soft and sweet, with lots of different shading, details, and very creative touches. This super special book will definitely inspire many readers to write their own how-to poems. (Ages 6-9)


BOOK REVIEWS

Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure

The Pepper Party Picks the Perfect Pet

by Jay Cooper (Scholastic) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri The Pepper Party Picks the Perfect Pet is a fun, adventurous read. Annie Pepper, the youngest in the Pepper family, wants to adopt a pet, a Chihuahua. But the rest of the family can’t really agree on what pet to get. Will she even get a pet? Read the book to find out! (Ages 7-10)

by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children’s Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry He has a dashing hat. He has a battered satchel. He has a packed lunch of fish finger sandwiches. Now he just needs an adventure! So when Bouddica Bones from the Museum of Extraordinary Objects calls for help, Mr. Penguin swings into action. Can he and Colin the spider find the museum’s missing treasure before bandits do? Or is this the adventure Mr. Penguin should have never answered? A great mystery! (Ages 8-12)

Payback on Poplar Lane

by Margaret Mincks (Viking Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry ABC’s Shark Tank meets The Terrible Two when a pair of sixth grade entrepreneurs compete to become top mogul on their block. Payback on Poplar Lane is a pitch-perfect comedy, destined to become a middle-grade classic. Young readers will see that healthy competition is a good thing and that sometimes the worst intentions of others can bring out the best in each of us. Middle schoolers will definitely relate. (Ages 8-12)

Stinkbomb and KetchupFace and the Pizza of Peril

by John Dougherty, Sam Ricks (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry This book begins with case files that our two detectives, Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face are working on. The evil criminal Badgers gang is in prison in an abandoned pizza mine, but when one of them discovers that the walls are actually made of old pizza crust, they eat right through and escape. Now our two heroes must track down and capture the Badgers who have grown larger and meaner—and as the Badgers are wreaking havoc, the island is in grave danger of falling into the sea. Young readers will love the nonstop action and will laugh out loud at the many funny situations. (Ages 8-12)

To Night Owl From Dogfish

by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Meg Wolitzer (Dial Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry The only things that Avery Bloom and Bett Devlin have in common is that they are both 12 years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads. When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent to the same sleepaway camp in hopes that they will find common ground and become friends—and possibly, one day, even sisters. But things soon go off the rails for the girls when they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. This is a great story about becoming a family. (Ages 10+)

Beverly, Right Here

by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick) Reviewer: Christine Irvin Beverly Tapinski has run away from home many times, but this time when she goes, she tells herself she is not running away, she is just leaving. Her father left her years ago. Her dog, Buddy, died and left her. And, her friend, Louisiana, left her too. So, she decided to just leave her old life. She has no plans for the future, other than to go somewhere new. She makes it only as far as Tamaray Beach, a couple of towns over from her home. In Tamaray Beach, she manages to find a job and a place to live. Now, she has to figure out what to do right here, right now. (Ages 10+) StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

57


BOOK REVIEWS

October Jones: The Lightning Pines Mystery

by J.D. McFarren (Wild Dreams Publishing) Reviewer: Diana Perry October Jones is an adventurous, street-smart, and scrappy boy whose curiosity often leads to trouble, but ends up being his saving grace. When a series of crimes occur in Lightning Pines Cemetery, October thinks he knows who is behind it all, but his mission to solve the mystery is hindered by a meddling teacher, class bullies, false leads, and getting grounded. Young readers will have fun reading this story and trying to figure out the identity of the culprit. (Ages 12+)

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe

by Ally Condie (Dutton Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry There is something Poe Blythe, the 17-year-old captain of the Outpost’s last mining ship, wants far more than the gold they tear from the Serpentine River: revenge. Poe has vowed to annihilate the river raiders who robbed her of everything two years ago. But as she navigates the treacherous waters of the Serpentine and realizes there might be a traitor among her crew, she must also reckon with who she has become, who she wants to be, and the ways love can change and shape you. Especially when you think all is lost. Young Adults will relate to the excitement, romance, adventure, and mystery in this book. I hope Ms. Condie will continue this story as I would love to read the next book. (Ages 12+)

“An entertaining YA romance with multilayered characters—a winner.” —Kirkus Reviews

Beau and Bett by Kathryn Berla ISBN: 9781948705448 | June 25, 2019

Distributed to the trade by IPG and available wherever books are sold.

58

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Storm of Rivals

by Callie Tobin (Blurb, Inc.) Reviewer: Diana Perry Fourteen-year-old Tempest flees the orphanage where she has lived and heads for the Kingdom of Evenraun. She arrives to learn that the royal family has disappeared and that a competition for the next leader is in place, but no adults are allowed to compete. An evil man named Vicknar is forcing children to be the competitors. Before she can sneak away, she is captured and forced to join the games. Everything gets worse for Tempest, who must find inner strength and bravery that she didn’t know she had just to survive every day. Young readers will love the adventure, danger, excitement, and many mysteries in this book. I wasn’t able to put it down. A terrific story with a surprising ending. (Ages 14+)

To submit your book for review, email Cristy Bertini at cristy@storymonsters.com for submission guidelines.


Dinosaurs Living in MY HAIR/ 2 by Jayne M. Rose-Vallee

"The girl with impossible curls and dinosaurs that hide in them returns in this sequel ... about finding similarities among friends-and being brave when bullies are mean." - Kirkus Reviews

Available at dinosaurslivinginmyhair.com and Amazon

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

59


QA Q&A

&

with Kim Dwinell and Vera Brosgol by Julianne Black

Can you believe that San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year? A halfcentury ago at the US Grant Hotel in San Diego, California, the first comic convention popped up for a one-day event and attracted about 100 attendees. This led to additional conventions, of course, and ultimately, the addition of guest stars, panels, screenings, and endless stalls of groundbreaking artists and authors. Today, Comic-Con International (still based in San Diego) runs several days and can top 130,000 visitors.

Add to the mix the incredible success of all the comic book hero reboots coming out of Hollywood and you get a perfect storm of new work, new readers, and new respect for a medium that had, well, let’s call it a questionable reputation in its early years. You can say it—graphic novels and the word “geek” went hand in hand, but I’m here to tell you that is very much no longer the case. When I heard about the SDCC anniversary, I decided I needed to check in with the state of graphic novels overall—what’s going on out there, especially where it relates to children’s literature. Really, can you think of a better way to turn a hesitant young reader into a hooked-for-life book lover than to pass out a few graphic novel adaptations of some of the classics, not to mention the brand-new jewels on the horizon for those out for a new adventure, new styles, and new voices? To satisfy my graphic novel preoccupation, this month I interviewed Kim Dwinell, the creator of the middle grade, cutting-edge Surfside Girls, and Caldecott Honor Winner Vera Brosgol, the Coraline storyboard artist and the author and artist behind Anya’s Ghost and Be Prepared. So what’s the tie in? Both authors are creating middle grade graphic novels by girls and for girls! So let’s jump in!

photo by Seth Berger

60

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com


Q&A

photo by George Baier

Kim, the stereotype has always been that graphic novels were a “guy thing,” and I’m so glad to see that breaking down! What made you decide to write a female-centered story for a female audience in this medium, and was it a conscious attempt to rock that boat?

I was kind of a tomboy in high school and into college. I surfed a lot in those days and spent a lot of time as the only girl in a group of surfer guys who were like brothers to me. I ran varsity cross-country, and ran with the guys, and then in college I got into triathlons and was a beach lifeguard, and a lot of the crowd I trained with was male. I think my art right now is a response to that. Besides that, I loved Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. Both are strong female role models. All of my art is really feminine and girl-power, and it’s not a conscious choice, but it’s just what comes out. Surfside Girls: The Mystery of the Old Rancho (book two in the series, which is out in July) has a bit of Sam in Junior Lifeguards running and swimming with the boys because she’s faster than all of the girls. That is straight out of my youth. I’m happy to see that the world has shifted a bit; I see fleets of little girls out in pink rash guards at surf school. That didn’t exist when I was surfing. Even still, I’m happy to be putting forth strong

female role models. It is important to me to inspire girls to be brave and physically strong and out in nature. Vera, grade school is such an important age to foster kids and their love of books, and graphic novels are a fun way to bridge picture books and chapter books. How has the response been to Anya’s Ghost and Be Prepared from parents and librarians?

Overwhelmingly positive! There’s something immediately captivating about comics—often the images can do the heavy lifting, making a nice transition from spare picture books to chunky chapters. And they’re just plain hard to put down, even for reluctant readers. I’ve heard from several educators that Anya’s Ghost was the first book one of their students had ever finished, which is a great feeling. Amazon has Anya listed for ages 12-17 and Be Prepared for ages 10-14. Was it a conscious decision to reach out to a younger audience with Be Prepared, or do you feel they are both geared towards the same maturity level?

Be Prepared was a bit of a conscious decision. I had already made a young adult book and a picture book, and wanted to have a book for every age. I like the idea StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

61


Q&A

of a reader growing up and having something more challenging available when they’re ready, or a story for every sibling in a family. I also love trying new things, and a brand-new audience is an interesting puzzle. That said, I know 7-year-olds who read Anya’s Ghost without batting an eye, even when it scared their older sisters. The age ranges help with shopping and shelving, but readers can take on whatever they feel ready for! Kim, with all the Marvel and DC movies out in the mainstream, I imagine that translates to a resurgence in graphic novel interest. Do you find your audience widening?

Yes, and it’s amazing! I love books of all sorts, and have been delighted to watch as libraries, large bookstores, indie bookstores, and my local comic shop have all increased their all-ages offerings of graphic novels. I’ll be honest when I say I wasn’t a comic book fan in my early youth—my little brother would get Spider-Man comics when we’d check out from the grocery store, and as an 8-year-old girl, they had no appeal to me. It is such a wonderful storytelling medium, and I love that the genre is open now in America to all sorts of stories for all sorts of tastes. Incidentally, we make it a point to be at Marvel movies on opening night and Spider-Man is my favorite! Tell me about Surfside Girls—how did it all come about?

I first had the idea a long time ago of a couple of young girls in a beach town—loosely based on my best friend and me in middle school—with a supernatural mystery afoot. These two characters kept popping up in my sketchbook, and I developed a cast of characters around them who might inhabit a beach town—surfers, lifeguards, old lady meter maids (you know how crazy parking is in a beach town!). I wasn’t quite sure where it was going, and initially I thought I would pitch it as an animated series to Nickelodeon. I ran it by an entertainment attorney friend of mine, and he told me to make a book. A book? I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like. And then all of a sudden Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novelization of The Babysitter’s Club came out, and I was thunderstruck. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I actually went to grad school to sharpen my skills and learn how to make a graphic novel. 

62

Story Monsters Ink | June 2019 | StoryMonsters.com

Vera, you have a new book out, The Little Guys, which you are about to head off and tour! Can you give us a little background on where the ideas came from and what to expect?

The Little Guys is my second picture book, about a troop of acorn-hatted gnomes living in a forest. They’re teenytiny, but by working together, they’re able to take care of each other and get what they need. Maybe a little more than they need. I came up with the idea while in the throes of some political despair a couple of years ago. It’s a story about teamwork, greed, forgiveness, and the perils of a mob mentality. Hopefully it’s also funny and cute! I’ve been on tour with a Little Guy in my pocket, and he’s really enjoying saying hi to all the kids. So am I! Kim, what are you working on now and when will we be able to expect it?

I’m happy to say that I finished book 2 in January. Woo hoo! I can’t wait to see it out in the universe after working so hard on it! There’s a new mystery in Surfside that the girls stumble upon, and it takes place all while Sam is working as a Junior Lifeguard volunteer at Surfside’s annual surf competition. It will be out in July at San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve taken a few months off since then and have spent a lot of time recharging in my favorite place: the ocean! I am doing some fun creative things like making stickers for upcoming conventions, and I am working on a couple of mini-comics in the Surfside Girls universe.  Kim Dwinell is an illustrator/animator/graphic novelist and teacher in Long Beach, California. Visit her website at SurfsideGirls.com or Facebook: @surfsidegirls and Instagram: @kimberly.dwinell. Vera Brosgol is a Russian-born animator, storyboard artist, and graphic novelist whose awards include a Caldecott Honor and an Eisner Award. You can check out her work at verabee.com or on Instagram and Twitter: @verabee.

Julianne DiBlasi Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet, the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book. krakensky.com.


Livon Life

What Would Be Your Superpower?

When I first thought about this question, I immediately formed an extremely long list of superpowers I would love to have, such as being invisible, being able to fly, the power to lift large buildings, etc. But in thinking about superpowers, I realized there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with them and some could change your life completely. That got me thinking that I’d want to have a superpower that I could use to help make the world a better place and to have fun with. The superpower that I would love to have is to talk to animals! I love animals and want to help them in any way possible, and that is one of the reasons I chose to be a vegetarian. I have never eaten any animal products such as meat, poultry, or fish since I was born. I do not want to ever hurt an animal, plus I have a dog named Copper, who is my best friend. I sometimes wish Copper and I could have a cup of tea and talk to

by Olivia Amiri

each other. Or when I read at night to Copper, I would love to hear what his thoughts are about the book I just read. Of course, we communicate with looks, movements, and pure feelings, but I really want to hear his actual talking voice. But then after giving it even more thought, I realized nobody actually needs superpowers because we already have them inside ourselves.

•

Olivia Amiri 12-year-old Olivia Amiri is a little girl with big advice! Sharing insights and observations on the world around us, her message is clear: kids are still the best teachers to remind grown-ups of the simple joys in life. livonlife.com

StoryMonsters.com | June 2019 | Story Monsters Ink

63


“We found the rhyming structure of your books easy to listen to and captivated the young students. The additional resources included in the Go Beyond sections go beyond just reading comprehension and have given our counselor ideas for lessons to help build the skills focused on in your books.” Moore Elementary, Winston-Salem, NC

“A great series for early childhood character building. Every book provides fun facts about the main animal characterized in the story, and gives helpful hints on how to maximize and personalize the story’s learning potential for different audiences.” (Ages 5-9) Darleen Wohlfeil Reviewer, StoryMonsters Ink

Meet The Animals That Teach Kids About Making Good Choices Cooperation

Resilience

Respect

Determination

Respect

Compassion

Transform Storytime into the Magic of Learning ®

Building Character is Child’s Play®

www.BaxtersCorner.com Educator Discount available. Email request to PlayMaster@BaxtersCorner.com

06-2019 June StoryMonster-3.indd 1

5/10/19 6:17 PM

Profile for Story Monsters Ink

Story Monsters Ink® - June 2019  

This month's issue includes interviews with NBA legend Kobe Bryant, SNL alum Vanessa Bayer, Mickey Rapkin, Zack Bush, Symonne Harrison, Timo...

Story Monsters Ink® - June 2019  

This month's issue includes interviews with NBA legend Kobe Bryant, SNL alum Vanessa Bayer, Mickey Rapkin, Zack Bush, Symonne Harrison, Timo...